Careers in Canada’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are growing, creating opportunities for prepared skilled newcomers.
Published February 1, 2022.
According to Alison Symington, President, Science & Technology Awareness Network (STAN), the STEM employment landscape in Canada is evolving to become more inclusive
Like other parts of the Canadian employment landscape, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are experiencing significant demand for highly skilled talent.
Common STEM occupations include laboratory technicians, computer programmers, developers, engineers, chemists, nurses, and medical doctors. Windmill Microlending’s Trending Jobs Report confirms the growing employment opportunities for many of these roles in different parts of the country.
Alison Symington, President of the Science & Technology Awareness Network (STAN) says skilled immigrants and refugees, in particular, newcomer women, play an important role in addressing this demand but often experience barriers to entry or advancement in STEM fields.
“Many, if not most immigrants, are highly educated and many have deep STEM experience. As a group, they often find themselves at a disadvantage. Many businesses look for Canadian experience. In some cases, it might be valid, the need for a specific designation or knowledge of Canadian standards like in pharmaceutical manufacturing but much of it is a bias by Canadian trained professionals,” says Symington. “Women are often at an added disadvantage in these fields. Many have to balance looking after a family as well as working, and traditionally this falls on women.”
Shifting towards a more inclusive STEM ecosystem
In the report, Workfinding & Immigrant Women’s Prosperity in STEM, the current STEM employment landscape in Canada is described as a challenging place for immigrants, especially women – where access to jobs, professional networks, and advancement opportunities is not equitable. There certainly is no shortage of qualified candidates as approximately half of all STEM graduates are immigrants. Other research indicates that while Canada is a global leader in women’s equality across different professions and sectors, a notable gender gap exists in the country’s STEM education institutions and organizations. As well, an earnings gap exists between STEM-educated immigrants and their Canadian-born counterparts that has been linked to a devaluing of foreign education credentials.
Despite these ongoing issues, Symington believes Canada’s STEM fields are changing for the better.
“We are starting to see a shift in STEM organizations toward being more open and accepting of newcomers. Many organizations are now fully invested in inclusion, equity and accessibility and this includes issues faced by newcomers, and particularly by women. For example, we have seen a shift in biological sciences being dominated by women although the engineering, computer and math disciplines are still lagging behind,” she says.
Symington leads STAN, an organization that links science outreach and education groups together. Its member organizations work to increase science literacy among their communities. Many are directed toward newcomers, particularly women and girls, providing the STEM skills they will need as they move through their education.
Symington believes it is a critical time in STEM as institutions and organizations try to “solve or abate wicked problems like climate change and global pandemics.” She indicates that opportunities for new Canadians are increasing, and their STEM knowledge, skills and experience will be needed across the country.
“Newcomers, and particularly newcomer women, bring a different perspective to the field,” says Symington.
“It is always good for science when there are multiple points of view. They come from different perspectives and so can bring new ideas to the table.”